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A Closer Look at the Free Google Pages Service

Find out what this new project from Google can and can't do for you

It is now about several months ago that Google announced its new service (currently in Beta) with the name "Google Pages" or "Google Page Creator" (Url: http://pages.google.com).

It is intended to give average people and Internet newbies the ability to create a website via a free and easy-to-use tool. Blogs became main stream over a year ago and proved to be so easy to use that virtually anybody was able to start one and publish content without the need to take some Internet 101 or Web Development classes. Google Pages is geared toward the same audience. The difference between Blogs and Google Pages is that Blogs are meant to be a "journal" to publish recent news and events and not permanent content such as a family history or "About Me" pages. Google Pages tries to fulfill this need.

As of this writing, Google Pages is still in test mode, and you must have a Google Gmail account to sign up. Only recently did Google add the Google Pages service to their service "Google for your Domain" making it a low budget (actually no-budget, because it is free) solutions for people that own a domain and want only get a few pages up on the Internet.

I was playing around with the service to find out how far it has developed, what you can do with it and what not. This article is a brief review of the current features and shortcomings of the service. You can visit my Google Pages test pages at the web adress carsten.cumbrowski.googlepages.com to get an idea what pages created by this new service can look like.

The Basic Layout

The first choice the user has to make is which of the 4 predefined layouts and 41 predefined designs to use for pages. There is no option to change a design or layout to custom needs, which really limits the possibilities to create unique looking pages severely.

The Google Pages Team did obviously not study how Blogger is solving this problem in an elegant way by providing the selection of templates with the ability to tweak it afterwards by more experienced users. Blogger is also owned by Google. I recommend that the Google Pages Team meets with the Blogger Team to discuss synergies and learn from the years of experience the Blogger Team already has with this problem.

The WYSIWYG Editor

The intuitive WYSIWYG editor is overall very easy to use but rather limited in options. Only 6 fonts are available: Arial, Verdana, Times New Roman, Courier New, Georgia and Trebuchet; 4 font sizes: small, normal, large and huge; 70 fixed Colors; H1, H2 and H3 headlines; unsorted list (ul); bold or italic font formatting (no underline, superscript or strike through); link to other page, file, email or external link; alignment of content: left, right and center; image (must be uploaded) with 4 fixed size options: small, medium, large and original size.

There is the option to edit the HTML Code, which you need to fall back to when it comes to creating tables or using additional HTML Syntax not provided by the editor like <HR>, sorted list, the mentioned font formatting or specific colors not available in the list of the 70 predefined ones.

What I also miss is a simple build-in spell checker. The Google Toolbar has one built-in, and there are various free solutions out there as well, such as the Lingucomponent Project from Open Office (http://lingucomponent.openoffice.org).

Page and Image Management

The management of the individual Pages is easy. Google Pages refers to pages by what you use in the predefined "Title" area of a page. So far so good, but there is an issue when it comes to the page name used for the URL. The initial title specified for a new page is used for the page file name and can not be changed afterwards.

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